Packing. Chasing round the house collecting all essential items that each member of the family might conceivably need during two weeks in a foreign country. Of course, there are shops abroad but it is a personal challenge not to forget anything. An unpleasant and slightly stressful task but one that holds as its reward a holiday.
Unpacking. Washing, ironing and putting away all the essential elements of the holiday, all so carefully thought of and gathered. An unpleasant and not in the least bit stressful task but one that holds as its reward... well. Nothing really. Just putting things back in their rightful place so that someone can wear, soil and discard them again later.
So I stare at my post holiday ironing pile and wonder, as I do each year, why we ended up taking all that stuff? How much of it was actually required? How much it was actually even worn?
Every year it's the same. I decide that we don't need much. We have a washing machine so we we can wash as we go, thus reducing our need still further. Of course there are six of us so even the bare minimum requires a couple of bags and what we can take is also limited by what we can carry and how much we can realistically get in to the minuscule boot of a seven seater car.
But even then I hope that what we take can be reduced. I make little piles of clothes for each child, trying to cover all eventualities. We tend to travel towards the sun so the weather isn't an influencing factor. But they need costumes and shorts and t shirts and a couple of things to wear when we go out in the evening. And I am the same. Some variety for the photos but little required. Economical shoe choices and a couple of neutral pieces of jewellery.
But then there are the towels - six beach towels take up some space. Suncream for six, cameras, endless chargers and plugs, things to ward off mosquitoes and dozens of books. And suddenly, there we are again. Back to four bags just like last year.
The difficulty is always that until you have had your holiday you are never entirely sure what you might need. This year and with the benefit of hindsight I know that the kids wore almost no clothes during the day and that we ate out at lunchtimes and not in the evenings so all smart clothes were redundant. I suppose this year I packed for last year's holiday where we shared a pool with other famililies and ate out at a local pizzeria rather than barbecuing on our own.
So as I do battle with the pile of things that need repatriating in their various wardrobes, I need to remember what I did wrong this year and store that knowledge up for next year, when, no doubt the holiday will be different again and yet again I will pack too much stuff.